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Cards Against Harassment
“Making unwanted comments about my body is harassment”. This is the main message that Lindsay - front woman of the new Card Against Harassment initiative - is attempting to send to men on the streets of Minneapolis. Most of Lindsay’s card recipients are surprised and insinuate that they only wanted to give her a compliment. The problem, however, is that whether or not the initial message is intended as a compliment, it results in the receiver feeling uncomfortable and unsafe. Often harassment can be a “gateway to other forms of more serious violence”. This is not to say that every street harasser will later engage in harsher forms of violence. However, engaging in these practices can perpetuate the idea that women’s bodies are not their own, which creates an unequal power dynamic resulting in a situation where women (and sometimes men who are victims of street harassment) feel unsafe.
The “Card against harassment” initiative hopes to catch catcallers in the moment and provide them with resources to the website for further information. As the men in her videos try to defend their “positive intentions”, Lindsay attempts (with much more patience than I would be able to maintain) to explain the invasive implications of the comment. As she reiterates from video to video, the cards are quite simply intended to get the harassers to take a moment to think about what they are doing. Regardless of the intention, the effects of catcalling are often negative. Inappropriate comments on a person’s body or physical appearance often cause the recipient to feel unsafe and uncomfortable, rather than complimented.
I can’t help but cringe while the men explain that they feel women were “put on Earth for men”, and “dress specifically to please men”. I can only speak for myself, but I know when I dress in the morning, I dress for me. There is not one thought about pleasing men that crosses my mind. Unfortunately it isn’t only women who are subject to this catcalling, men experience this as well. I personally identify as a feminist - supporting equality for all. In support of my equalizing ideals, I believe EVERYONE should be able to walk down the street without other people making them uncomfortable – regardless of their gender or sex.
The site features printable versions of the cards Lindsay hands out in the videos. Some - unfortunately not all - of the cards are gender neutral. So, if you identify as male and feel that you are subject to disrespectful catcalling and want to join the initiative, most of the cards will allow you to do this! If you are in a safe space, providing your harasser with a card may be a great conversation starter and allow you to engage in a thought provoking discussion with the person. However, it is important to remember that not everyone will be as receptive to the information as the men in the videos are. Make sure to keep the conversation as positive as possible to avoid any physical altercations that might jeopardize your safety. Although Lindsay herself frequently engages in a conversation with her harassers, this isn’t something you necessarily have to do to support the initiative. The printable cards make it easy to send a message to a harasser without having to stick around and chat when you feel like you are not in a safe space. It is important to be aware of this, as it can be difficult to predict how a person may respond.
If you are being harassed and feel uncomfortable, I hope these cards will empower you to speak up. It is important that you know that you deserve to feel comfortable and safe wherever you are. Your body is your own and no one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable. If you are finding that your situation might be beyond the realm of assistance the cards can provide, please contact your local police department or file a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Adrienne (BA Psychology) is a Child and Youth Worker (CYW) student at Fanshawe College, currently on placement with mindyourmind. She has a passion for psychology and mental wellness, and loves working with children and youth. In her spare time, Adrienne enjoys nature, discovering new music and visiting with her niece "Ella" (while secretly analyzing her developmental milestones).
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